Two marathons, one half marathon, four Spartan races and one pole fitness dancing showcase in two months? Did I really pull all of this off in eight weeks? I look at these medals and I can't help but smile but when I reflect on the last year, it has been amazing.
Every year, I revise my bucket list. 2016 is the year that I played truth or dare with it, exceeding my wildest expectations. If nobody could have told me that I'd be a plus size runner, then there was no living soul who could have made me believe that out of all people, I would participate in a pole dancing showcase ever in life. Me? This two left feet, self professed wide squatting girl whose hips need WD-40, can't two step ass was going to go on a pole and dance to a Michael Jackson's Thriller set? Bitch say what! But guess what?! It happened. I dedicated three months of my life learning it and despite my hair malfunction, I pushed through and made it. 2016 was a year of tears for me as well but it wasn't terrible.
In January, I had the opportunity to travel to two states: Florida and Atlanta. For a short amount of time, I had the opportunity to see my family members and kick in the Florida sun, basking in sun rays while my counterparts were caught in a snow storm. I did get cursed out for conveniently leaving on a good week but my trip was planned for a full year. I traveled from Orlando to Miami and stayed in Little Haiti, in which everyone feared for my life for absolutely nothing. If I allowed others' fears to take over me, I would have been terrified. Thankfully, I am not the typical tourist and I played it cool. Little Haiti was like being in a transitioning millennium Brooklyn. You can see the old school poverty blending in with gentrification. Hipsters and old school heads don't scare me. Can I say that I tasted some of the best dishes of my life while there? Had some of the strongest coffee that I'll never drink again. You don't know a strong brew until you go into the heart of Miami. Between the Colombians and Cubanos, someone had me wired for a half day off of a cup of coffee two days in a row.
Humbly, I learned the definition to a successful running failure in Miami. Cheers to the first race that I ever had to learn how to have chill button. We're talking about a morning where I had everything perfectly planned, ate nothing different than normal, felt excellent and felt it all go to shit during mile 6. It was the day that my mind couldn't fight the physical pain. I never said I was Superwoman nor desired to be. It started out as a lower back ache and I was mesmerized by the sunrise that I saw back at Mile 3. I gave it a mental shrug until the dull pain turned into a vicious terrorizing two year old demanding attention. By mile 9, I was in tears on the course. Fatigue started to set in. The crowd participation reminded me of my first marathon in Washington DC for the Rock & Roll Series, which was pretty uneventful at certain moments. At mile 10, I had a heart to heart with myself and realistically asked myself how much longer could I go. Realistically, I probably could have chanced it and made it to the end but I am almost certain that directly after getting my medal, I would have been in a hospital. On the other hand, Miami wasn't my last stop.
The next day, I was heading out to Atlanta to meet a woman that I wanted to meet for 11 years, who would eventually be the person that I would break my Spartan Beast virginity in South Carolina. At that moment, I decided to not be a daredevil and come to some sort of peace of turning my full marathon into a half marathon option. It was the best decision that I could have made. Shortly after getting my medal for completing an unscheduled half marathon, I started feeling my muscles twitch uncontrollably. It took me two hours to move away from the celebratory area, call a Lyft and drive me back to my AirBnB. My spinal headache was playing auto tunes to my spine and rectum. With no proper medication, I tried my best to curl into a fetal position awaiting to pass out after taking a very mediocre shower. Race day evening, I started feel rejuvenated and had one of the best dining experiences in my life.
Meeting Bracha was absolutely worth dropping from my full marathon slot to half marathon in Miami. On the course, I told myself that the true race medal would be meeting a woman that I truly admired for over a decade. We spent a few days together in Atlanta and tried to cram in as much things in such a short amount of time. We thoroughly enjoyed teasing our friends and family members on Facebook about our pseudo lesbian relationship, as many people were genuinely worried about us "catfishing" each other. If she wasn't who she claimed to be for eleven years, then I'd have to give that woman an Oscar for being an incredible method actor.
This year alone, I participated in at 17 running events and traveled to at least six states. I feel blessed. Familiar faces and strangers believed in my success enough to fund me for my marathons and Spartan races, even when there were moments of doubting myself. At some point, you have to learn how to tell yourself that you're not a complete fuck up. Guess today is the day. I'm not half bad after all.
Next year, I hope that I'm able to give back in some sort of way. I'm still trying to figure out how I will be able to accomplish this but it would be great to do. I'm sure if it will be limited to just fitness but hopefully, I'll find a way to tie in mental health.
If there was anything that I took from 2016, it would certainly be in learning how to respect that it's not just a mind over matter issue. You have to learn how to make them both work in harmony with each other. Too many of us either think that we are not strong enough mentally or too arrogant to admit that we all have our shortcomings. Each and every one of us are capable of doing better in something every day of our lives. Here's a few of my life hacks:
Aside from the NYRR Ted Corbitt 15K on December 10th, I have no more events planned for the year. I went back to pole dancing classes at Foxy Fitness and Pole on Thursday and felt like a complete newbie. For the duration of the year, I plan on maintaining my fitness by jogging around 20 to 25 miles a week, along with my regular strength training. So far, I haven't wrote my bucket list for 2017 but I hope it will be just as epic as this year's list of events. I'm considering more trails, Spartan races and entertaining the thought of participating in a Tough Mudder event and the North Face Endurance Challenge, which scares me a bit. I'll see where my gypsy heart will take me.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
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